History 3 of 3

3. History 3

Portfield F.C.

Portfield Football Club started life in 1896 as a group of local lads without a permanent pitch, a club in name only and formed, organised and supported by local business people. Meetings and team selection took place in the Wheatsheaf Inn, a local Public House. Where now stands a set of traffic lights on the A27, Arundel Park Estate and St James Square, were all in their day, home for the 'Field'. Then came a new home ground called 'Downers'.

A cow pasture upon which they were permitted to site an old railway carriage for use as changing rooms, but not allowed to mow, prompted the teams nickname of the 'Field'. Long wet grass where the cows hadn't grazed, and other hazards where they had, made the old leather ball somewhat heavy and difficult to control, and to head it was risking concussion.

The 2nd World war interrupted organised football of course, but 1945 saw the return of most of the lads from the armed forces, and Downers, resplendent with the ex-army camouflage nets on the goals, were to witness the winning of the Sussex Junior Cup closely followed by the West Sussex League championship.

Memories of those days include the sight of Billy Hunt and Fred Bennett trundling their wooden box cart toward the ground on Saturday mornings, their mission being to ensure that the cows had been moved elsewhere, and to remove as much evidence of their presence as possible. Hanging the nets and carrying a bucket of cold water from the big house a quarter of a mile away, were also on the match day agenda.

Despite being well outside the City at a time when very few people had cars, they enjoyed good support, but the biggest crowds usually occured when they played hosts to Graylingwell Mental Hospital because it was practice to walk a supervised party of patients to the match for exercise. They always made plenty of noise and seemed to enjoy themselves even if there were doubts among them as to who the competing teams were. Happy days, but they were poor relations to the likes of Chichester FC who were enjoying the luxurious facilities of one of Chichester's main recreation areas, Priory Park.

In the mid fifties the ever growing need to quarry gravel from around the City's outskirts eventually claimed 'Downers', and they were forced to move to a local recreation ground, Florence Road, which itself had been a quarry some years before. Whilst closer to the City's population and the Wheatsheaf Public House, the infilling of the quarry had not had sufficient time to settle and all manner of sharp flints, metal etc. were often found on the surface. In those days there were also no changing facilities.

In 1958 Portfield were given permission to use the pitch that existed in Church Road. D. Rowe and Co., the local car garage were then leasing the ground from Chichester City Council for the firm's sports club, and since their Managing Director's first love was cricket, a wicket square dominated the centre of their ground, with a football pitch running at a right angle of that of today. Three years later, Rowes gave up the lease on the ground which Portfield then acquired.

The team built their first clubhouse in 1969 which housed dressing rooms for both teams and match officials, showers, toilets, clubroom and bar. Separate changing room facilities were added in 1983 followed by floodlights in 1987 and other facilities - the stand and hard standing area around the pitch - were also improved. Portfield merged with Chichester City FC in 2000 to form Chichester City United.